Friday, 2 April 2010

Victorian women surveyed on sexuality

The value of primary historical sources is that they can correct wrong assumptions and interpretations made by scholars in a later era. Stanford professor Clelia Mosher conducted surveys from 1892 to 1920 asking women for their views on sex and reproduction . The results seem surprising to modern eyes:

"The Mosher Survey recorded not only women's sexual habits and appetites, but also their thinking about spousal relationships, children and contraception. Perhaps, it hinted, Victorian women weren't so Victorian after all. Indeed, many of the surveyed women were decidedly unshrinking."

Stanford Magazine has a fascinating article about both the survey and the woman who compiled it, here. It concludes:

"In her own writings, Mosher was acutely aware of her foresight, and of the possibilities that lay ahead for women once sex became less of a secret and gender less of a burden. "Born into a world of unlimited opportunity, the woman of the rising generation will answer the question of what woman's real capacities are," Mosher wrote in 1923. "She will have physical, economic, racial and civic freedom. What will she do with it?""

Thanks to N for the link.

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